Nov. 4, 2009
Keeping its hopes alive of clinching its 12th straight NCAA Tournament bid after winning four of its last five matches, Santa Clara will host West Coast Conference volleyball league leaders this weekend with San Diego coming to the Leavey Center at 7 pm on Thurs., Nov. 5 and rival Saint Mary's coming to town at 7 pm on Sat., Nov. 7.
After first serve at the San Diego match, the Ruff Riders will be fed FREE PIZZA from Tony and Albas!
Santa Clara is 14-9 and 4-4 in the WCC and tied for fourth place. In second place, San Diego is 15-5 and 7-2 in the WCC. Prior to Thursday's match at USF, in first place, Saint Mary's is 16-4 and 8-1 in the WCC.
In his 11th season at the helm, Bronco head coach Jon Wallace feels the key to playing well this weekend is believing they can compete at a high level. "For us it's more of a mental battle than a physical battle. Physically we are pretty similar to USD and Saint Mary's. We need to be ready to come to fight and play hard. That will give us a good opportunity to successful."
Wallace said they feel pretty good mentally and physically as the team has matured a lot in the last month of WCC play. "We feel pretty good right now where we are mentally. We are working to continue to develop our young core and expand their games. Kayla, Kat and Sammy are getting better every day and it's fun and exciting to see those improvements. Right now we feel that we are a much better team than we were when we played these two teams last."
Senior Lindsy Davigeadono leads Santa Clara, which starts four freshmen in Dana Knudsen, Katherine Douglas, Samantha Selsky and Kayla Lommori. SCU is No. 3 in the WCC overall stats in opponent hitting percentage (.215) and blocks (2.2 bpg).
"Lindsy continues to play really well," said Wallace.
Individually, Knudsen is No. 3 in the WCC overall stats, hitting .354; and No. 9 with .88 bpg. Davigeadono is No. 9 in the WCC with 2.89 kpg and No. 7 with .91 bpg.
In WCC only stats, Santa Clara holds the opponent to a .242 hitting percentage and that is third-best in the league. They are also No. 3 with 2.18 bpg and 1.12 aces per game. Selsky is No. 3 in league play with 9.62 apg and No. 6 with .29 sapg.
Davigeadono is hitting .385 in WCC matches - good for No. 5 in the league; and No. 6 with 3.5 kpg. Both Knudsen and sophomore Tanya Schmidt are hitting .333 in WCC matches and are tied for No. 7 in the league. Junior Bridget O'Hara is No. 5 in league play with 3.82 dpg.
Wallace points to loss to Gonzaga as a turning point in the season. He feels like the team may have spent too much time worrying about the outcome - who wins or loses the match - instead of working to hard and having fun with each point.
"We released the weight on their shoulders about winning and now it's about competing and playing hard," continued Wallace. "Our girls have put a lot of effort into improving. We have been through some battles and learned. They don't like to lose and they have worked hard to change and grow as a team. They are improving and they are committed to that," said Wallace.
A key match-up for Santa Clara vs. San Diego will be how they contend with senior Ali Troost - who Wallace calls the best player in the WCC. Troost is No. 2 in league play with 4.35 kpg. Wallace will look to his two freshmen left-sides, Lommori and Douglas, to have more of an impact in this match vs. Troost than they did the last time the two teams played each other in San Diego.
"In order for Kat and Kayla to be successful, we will also need the consistent play of Dana and Lindsy to continue to get better," said Wallace. "Ali is very good and we will have to work to slow her up."
Wallace said the Saint Mary's match is a different type of battle. The battle vs. Saint Mary's is more of a battle vs. their system rather than an individual. "Last time we played Saint Mary's we felt our schemes worked fairly well. If we can execute better offensively, we should be in a better position to score."
Wallace really likes what he sees of O'Hara as the libero. "She gets better every week."
"I am pleased with where the team is right now," said Wallace. "I am certainly more pleased than I was two weeks ago. We still are searching how to control a set and how to win a set, but it was good to see us turn around and beat USF last Friday. Our four-week improvement really showed on the court vs. the Dons. We weren't just better statistically, but the girls made big-time plays."